Saturday, August 23, 2008

Teen indicted on murder charge

PANAMA CITY — Jurors indicted a 16-year-old Wednesday on a charge of first-degree murder.

Jose Gonzalez is too young to face the death penalty, according to his lawyer, so the maximum penalty he faces is life in prison. He's accused of stabbing to death Timothy Roy Humphries, 49, Aug. 2 near the 1400 block of Lisenby Avenue.

Gonzalez was arrested Aug. 4 in Orlando, minutes before he was scheduled to board a flight to Puerto Rico. Another man, Luis Rios Robledo, 27, was arrested with Gonzalez and charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder.

Deputy Public Defender Walter Smith said Wednesday he believes Robledo was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He said Gonzalez's family has told him that Robledo had been scheduled to fly back to Puerto Rico for some time and was not trying to help Gonzalez escape justice.

Smith said appeals courts have ruled defendants in Florida younger than 17 cannot be executed. The indictment automatically waives Gonzalez up to adult court, and Smith said he expects he will have to take the case to trial.

Smith said he's still very early in the discovery process but is beginning to hear there was a dispute between Humphries and Gonzalez about two weeks before Aug. 2 in which Humphries had threatened Gonzalez.

"This looks like a case of two guys who don't like each other just went at it," Smith said. His next goal will be to find out what happened the day of the stabbing to instigate the violence.

Smith said Orlando authorities interviewed Gonzalez in Spanish, which will complicate things a little. He said he'll have to get the tape transcribed and translated into English, then check the transcription against the tape to make sure it's accurate.

Smith said there also is some question about Gonzalez's mental health, but that probably will not factor into the trial.

If Gonzalez is convicted of first- or second-degree murder, he would spend the rest of his life in prison. If convicted of manslaughter, he could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

"If he gets manslaughter, he gets out of prison while he's in his 40s," Smith said, "instead of dying in prison."

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